Call for more Government funding after Beast from the East

Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member responsible for roads.
Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member responsible for roads.

Northumberland County Council is to approach the Government to ask for more money to fix the roads after the damage caused by the Beast from the East.

This was revealed by council leader Peter Jackson at the authority’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday, at which additional funding – announced before the recent adverse weather – was formally accepted.

Potholes campaign

Potholes campaign

In early February, it was announced that the council was being allocated an extra £930,771 Pothole Action Fund grant on top of the £1.329million previously allocated to Northumberland from this fund for 2017/18.

Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member responsible for roads, said: “It is welcome, as well as the £400,000 the council has taken out of contingency to tackle potholes as quickly as possible in as effective a way as possible. The recent weather has certainly made it more difficult.

“The problems in Northumberland are really no different to in other counties, but we have an even greater stretch of roads to cover here. We will find the money I’m sure and we will deal with it.”

Coun Sanderson also praised the Gazette at the meeting for taking ‘a reasoned and rational response to what is a very annoying issue for residents’ via our potholes campaign, launched a fortnight ago.

Expanding on this afterwards, he said: “Thank you for your measured and helpful reporting of the pothole issues in the county.

“We are not alone in having this unprecedented problem – many areas across the country have similar pothole numbers.

“Before the snow of two weeks ago we had already calculated that the number of potholes had almost doubled over previous years.

“The reason for this is the combination of wet and then frosty conditions which is hard on road surfaces.

“Because of the problem, we allocated an extra £1.3million of new money from council contingencies and from Government funding to help us deal with this. However, the recent snow – which was dealt with so well by our staff, contractors, local farmers and volunteers for whose work and efforts we are so grateful – has left an even greater problem of damaged road surfaces and potholes.

“So please bear with us and continue to report problems via the NCC website.

“We are doing our best to deal with the problem that we have, but it will take time and a great deal of money.”

Aims of our campaign

Raise awareness of the correct ways to reports pothole – the council will not be able to repair it if it does not know of its existence through the proper channels – log on to http://bit.ly/NCCpothole for more;

Openly engage with you our readers in highlighting the worst potholes;

Work with Northumberland County Council to help address them.

This collaborative work may well involve an approach to Government for more funding.

Roads gone to pot: How to claim for damage to your car

If potholes have left you with an expensive repair bill, you might be able to claim compensation.

“The authorities have a legal duty to maintain roads so they’re safe for everyone to use,” says Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com “If they don’t and your car’s damaged, they should help pay the costs to repair it.

“It’s important to understand you can only claim anyway if the authority responsible for the road has been negligent. So if a cannon ball drops off a truck, causing a pothole which two minutes later damages your car, you’ve no right to claim – there’s nothing the authorities could’ve done to prevent that.

“Even if you are eligible to claim, you have a decision to make. Some argue that compensation deprives authorities of much-needed cash to fix roads – others that the more people pursue their rights, the more incentive there is for authorities to improve the roads to avoid dealing with claims.”

What counts as a pothole?

Frustratingly, there is no standard definition of what constitutes a pothole. Instead, potholes are defined by their depth – otherwise they’re considered to be a ‘carriageway defect’.

Northumberland County Council uses 40mm as the minimum depth and 300mm as the minimum width.

Who’s responsible for pothole damage to my car?

Northumberland County Council is responsible for most of the roads in the county, but the A1 is part of the national network and is the responsibility of Highways England.

Any damage that a pothole causes to your car could be their responsibility, which means you could be entitled to compensation.

That said, if your car is damaged due to other debris on the road, then you aren’t entitled to compensation. For this, you’d need to make a claim on your car insurance.

The chances of being successful in claiming compensation will significantly depend on whether the pothole has already been reported.

Councils have a statutory defence in that they cannot be held liable for a defect they are not aware of – either because it has not been reported to them or has not been picked up by their own system of inspection and maintenance.

If you have fully comprehensive insurance, it might also be possible to make a claim via your insurance company for the damage to your vehicle.

How do I claim for pothole damage?

If you’re going to claim from the local authority, it’s best to keep records of everything where possible.

So long as it’s safe to do so, gather as much evidence about the pothole and the damage done to your car as you can. Write down all the key details such as location of the pothole, its size, shape and depth. It’s also worth taking a photograph of the offending pothole.

You should also note the time and day of the incident, witness details (if any), your exact location so you can pinpoint the specific pothole, and the damage done to your car.

Whether or not you end up claiming for the damage, it’s your duty as a good citizen to report the pothole. Not only does this help speed up repairs of the pothole, there’ll be a definite record of it for if you decide to claim – log on to http://bit.ly/NCCpothole
Get several quotes for any repairs before you settle on a garage. If you’re not paying over the odds for the repair, you’re more likely to get that money back. Keep records of any quotes and receipts you get for the repairs. This will help to support your claim.

In your letter or email, you should include a full description of the incident, the location and time/date, details of any witnesses, any photographs or sketches of the scene, photographs of the damage to the car and copies of all repair work receipts.

‘Roads hanging in the balance’

Motoring body the RAC warned that the condition of Britain’s roads was hanging in the balance earlier this year as poor weather contributed to falling standards.

The group reported an 11 per cent rise in call-outs to pothole-related breakdowns in the last quarter of 2017 and warned that any further bad weather could lead to further sharp rises in the number of potholes and associated damage.

According to the service’s records, its patrols attended 2,830 breakdowns between October and December 2017 where vehicles had broken down due to damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs or distorted wheels, likely due to poor quality road surfaces.

That’s up from 2,547 incidents in the same period in 2016 and also represents a sharper increase between quarters three and four than in the previous year.

While an increase is always expected between the two seasons as the weather turns colder, breakdowns rose by 45 per cent between the last two quarters of 2017, compared to 38 per cent in 2016.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “Put simply, potholes are a menace for drivers and indeed for all road users.

“They represent a serious road safety risk and anyone who has driven into one will know it can be a frightening experience, not to say a potentially costly one – distorted wheels, broken springs and shock absorbers can be very expensive problems to put right.

“And for those on two wheels it can be genuinely life-threatening.”

As part of his autumn Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a £45million fund to tackle potholes across England this year, but the RAC has called for a longer-term approach to road maintenance.